(written by Nancy)
Nice sleep in at the campground – there wasn’t much stirring around us until at least 7:30, when the ‘Wilderness Challenge’ people camped next to us got up. We laughed a bit, as they are being carted around in a big 4-wheel van, going from Cairns to Broome – must be a big challenge to sit in that van all day as they drive the long distances between towns!
Anyway, we finally got out of the tent about 8 and headed over to the kitchen to eat up our remaining granola. Unfortunately no eggs and bacon on this rest day. But at least we each got our own full cup of espresso…. We hung out in the kitchen a bit and charged up the electronics, and then it was time to head down to the thermal springs.
We rode our bikes about 2.5k down the road to the Bitter Springs thermal pools that are in the Elsey National Park. The springs are quite nice – warm, but not too warm. It was a beautiful little area with pools of warm water surrounded by trees. The pools are relatively deep and have been left in a natural state – they have not been modified other than to add a couple of steps that allow you to walk into them. There were not too many people there when we arrived so it was very quiet. Thank goodness there weren’t too many people to see our very weird tans!
We floated around a bit – Dave managed to move away from the stairs and railings just a bit so that is progress. You could actually flow with the current around the springs and down to another landing point, but then had to walk back to the entry point. I swam up a little bit, but it was a little bit disconcerting to be the only person in the pool area at the time – everyone says there are no crocodiles there, that they would close it off if there were any crocodiles, but that usually only happens once the croc takes its first victim and I didn’t want to the be the first in that competition!
Anyway, we spent about an hour floating around (avoiding crocs and snakes) and then rode back to camp. On the way back we stopped to take a picture of some of the termite mounds that have grown up around the fences – right around the barbed wire and even some of the posts. There were houses that had multiple termite mounds in the yards – I guess you just get used to them!
We made it back in time to have scones and coffee for morning tea at the cafe here at the campground. We had heard that they were quite good and they hit the spot. Then it was just about time for lunch, so we ate up the rest of the rice crackers with tuna we have been carrying for ages. At 1:00 there is the barramundi feeding that we couldn’t miss so we headed over to the pond to watch.
The campground has its own pond with barramundi that are fed twice a day. The fellow who feeds them gives a little talk about the fish and then puts some bait on a pole to feed the fish. It was actually quite fun, as there was a group of school kids, mostly aboriginal, who were on a school outing that had lunch at the cafe and were then going to watch the feeding. They had each gotten awards for their good attendance at school, and the little fellow with the highest attendance (99%) also got to feed the barramundi. Barramundi are apparently all born male, and those that make it to the sea turn female after they have been in the sea for a period of time. They are pretty quick fish and sure seem to know how to get the bait off the line – they seem to get the bait before you could even see that they were moving.
After watching the fish we headed back into to town to see the ‘Never Never’ Museum – a little tiny museum about the area. It was almost a repetition of the museum in Larrimah – a lot of information about the military buildup here in WWII, the increase in population of the town and a little bit about the ‘We of the Never Never Land’ story. We then headed down to the only cafe in town to share a a mango smoothie and some banana bread. A nice relaxing afternoon.
We spent a little bit of time trying to do some planning this afternoon, and soon it was time for dinner at the restaurant. After watching that feeding this morning of course we had to have barramundi and chips for dinner – pretty good, with as much salad as you could eat.
Tomorrow we are off to Katherine, the biggest town we have been to since Mt Isa, many hundreds of kilometres ago. We will take several days off there to do some serious planning for the road ahead. Stay tuned…